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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 29/12/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) US President Barack Obama at Friday's White House meeting plans to propose a scaled-back package to avert some of the effects of tax and spending changes set to begin in January, a Democratic aide with knowledge of the president's plans said.

Obama will meet on Friday at the White House with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats.

The meeting is scheduled for 3.00pm Washington time, three days before a year-end deadline to avoid more than 600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases.

The scaled-back offer Obama plans to make to Republican congressional leaders includes renewing George W. Bush-era tax cuts for middle class earners, most likely for those making 400,000 and below, according to a Senate aide close to the talks. Both aides spoke on condition of anonymity.

The plan would extend unemployment insurance benefits set to expire at the end of the year, prevent a cut in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and head off an expansion of the alternative minimum tax, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The plan would delay or replace part of scheduled federal spending cuts, most likely the defense portion, the aide said. Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said on Thursday that he was anticipating a new White House offer. Yet Corker told reporters he was sceptical that any new offer from the president at Friday's meeting would do much to advance the negotiations.

"It's feeling very much like an optical meeting, not a substantive meeting," Corker told reporters.

On Capitol Hill, pessimism was the prevailing mood as the deadline for the so-called fiscal cliff approached. The Republican-led House called an unusual Sunday session for the evening of December 30, though the leaders didn't say what action they planned to take. Senate Republicans are unlikely to accept a deal that House Republicans can't support, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican.

"Our effort here is to try to get a result," he told reporters. "If you know the House isn't going to do something, then why go through the charade?"

Kyl declined to say what Republicans might accept. "Everybody recognises we're either going to get something in the next few hours or not," he said. "There's no more posturing time left."

In the meeting, Boehner will "continue to stress that the House has already passed legislation to avert the entire fiscal cliff and now the Senate must act," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement late Thursday.

Senate leaders took to the chamber's floor yesterday to accuse the other party of refusing to compromise on legislation aimed at trimming the debt.

"We wanted an agreement, but we got no takers. The phone never rang," said McConnell.

"We have nobody to work with, to compromise," said Reid of Nevada. "I don't know time-wise how it can happen now."


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